I get a lot of questions from readers, and most of the time, the answers are fairly short. When I feel the question or the reply would be valuable to others as well, I make a post with a collection of them and post them in one go. Today is one of those posts.

"As I am in a budget, is it possible to offer the Theoi incense sticks instead of raw?"

Hellenismos knows a lot of incense types, all of them raw; the Orphic tradition made use of three types of resins and a lot of burnable plant materials known as aromatics. There are also some specialty aromatics found listed with the surviving hymns. I've made a list of all the incenses and the Gods they were burned for. Now, orphism hardly is the be all, end all, of incese use, but it's good to know, regardless.

Generalizing, there are three types incenses: stick and spiral incense, cone incense, and raw resins and gums. Stick incense direct-burning, meaning you only need to light it once, and the glowing coal at the end helps burn the rest of the incense. Stick incense  is made from a moldable substrate of fragrant finely ground (or liquid) incense materials and odourless binder, pressed onto a holder. In other words, it is ground up resin (or gum), to which a binder is added, which covers a piece of bamboo. Some kinds of stick incense do not have a burnable center but are pressed into sticks without a core. Spiral incense only differs from stick incense in that rather than being a slender stick, it will curl. Cone incense only differs from stick incense in form, and it never has a burnable center.

Raw resins and gums are indirect-burning, meaning they require a separate heat source in order to stay lit. They are also generally unprocessed, are not prepared in any particular way, or encouraged into any particular form. In general, the tears came off of the trees they come from, are sometimes cleaned a bit, and then sold. They can also be bought in powdered from or a paste. In general, powder burns more intense but less long than tears. Paste incense is made from powdered or granulated incense material which is then mixed with an--incumbustible--binder such as honey or a softer type of resin and then formed into balls.

So can you use sticks, cones, spirals or even a paste? Yes, of course! Is it traditional? Not really, but that's not a bad thing. I prefer raw over processed because it is purer and I like offering the purest possible things to the Theoi. But stick incense does exactly what it is supposed to do, just like its raw brethren: carry the scent of sacrifice up to the Theoi in whisps of smoke. If stick incense is what you have or can afford then go for it! Definitely better with than without!


"I feel really terrible for saying this but as a Hellenist, can I be science-y and believe that evolution is definitely real and thing? Also like the big bang theory and such?"

Religion has the reputation of being un-scientific. By its definition, religion--the believe in something one can't prove--seems the polar opposite of science. So what of Hellenismos? Is that incomaptible with science like most major world religions? No. What I love about Hellenic mythology and philosophy is that it works with science--and the ancient philosophers agreed.

I have explained before how I differentiate between mythology and philosophy, where I feel myth was inspired by the Theoi Themselves, while philosophy was created by humans who saw society and drew conclusions from it. These conclusions often included a religious aspect because society was religious (even though the ancient Hellenes didn't have a word for 'religion'), but at its core, they deal not with religious matters. They deal with the influence of religion on humanity and society.

An example: the ancient Hellenic philosophers and mythographers were pretty much in agreement that the Gods, indeed, created the universe--or are the universe itself. The most famous account of how everything came to be comes from Hesiod. His 'Theogogy' is a complete recounting of the story, starting with Khaos:

"Verily at the first Chaos came to be, but next wide-bosomed Earth, the ever-sure foundations of all  the deathless ones who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus, and dim Tartarus in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth, and Eros, fairest among the deathless gods, who unnerves the limbs and overcomes the mind and wise counsels of all gods and all men within them. From Chaos came forth Erebus and black Night; but of Night were born Aether and Day, whom she conceived and bare from union in love with Erebus. And Earth first bare starry Heaven, equal to herself, to cover her on every side, and to be an ever-sure abiding-place for the blessed gods. And she brought forth long Hills, graceful haunts of the goddess-Nymphs who dwell amongst the glens of the hills. She bare also the fruitless deep with his raging swell, Pontus, without sweet union of love. But afterwards she lay with Heaven and bare deep-swirling Oceanus, Coeus and Crius and Hyperion and Iapetus, Theia and Rhea, Themis and Mnemosyne and gold-crowned Phoebe and lovely Tethys. After them was born Cronos the wily, youngest and most terrible of her children, and he hated his lusty sire." [ll. 116-138]

He goes on to list a great many deities, cutting out a rough shape of the cosmos while doing so. There are many variations of this family tree and in the ancient writings, there are also creation stories that range beyond this basic framework. Many of them match very well with science, though.

I believe in the theory of the Big Bang, where the universe was in an extremely hot and dense state and began expanding rapidly. After the initial expansion, the universe cooled sufficiently to allow energy to be converted into various subatomic particles, including protons, neutrons, and electrons. Giant clouds of these primordial elements later coalesced through gravity to form stars and galaxies, and the heavier elements were synthesized either within stars or during supernovae (courtesy of Wikipedia, because of ease). I see no issue in overlaying this theory with Hesiod's cosmology. The Big Bang theory does sound like first there was Khaos, and from that, matter came into being to eventually form the Earth as it is now. So as far as the creation of the universe and the Gods goes, I will go with Hesiod and his explanation, although a variation of his work is also fine by me.

As for how we came to be, I believe in evolution. I don't think we were put on the Earth ready-made by the Gods. That said, the proposal that one type of animal could descend from an animal of another type goes back to some of the first pre-Socratic Hellenic philosophers, such as Anaximander and Empedocles, so it's not an odd frame of mind to have for a Hellenist; even the ancient Hellenes flirted with the idea that at least animal species evolved from one another. I love the myth of Prometheus, but no, that is not how I think we came to be, although I won't rule out that the Gods had a hand in our formation through evolution.

All in all, I think Hellenismos and science go together very well. Most (if not all) scientific breakthroughs either work with Hellenic mythology or don't detract from it. Hellenic scientific research and philosophy often forms the base of our modern understanding of the world around us. The ancient Hellenes made great contributions to the field of 'science'. So yes, Hellenismos is 100% compatible with science and evolution, and that is something I find very appealing.


"How do you feel about Wiccans using Hellenic deities as their God and Goddess and using the to cast spells?"

I practiced Eclectic Religious Witchcraft for about seven years, longer than anything else in my life. I was initiated into a coven and initiated others. I was a priestess with a specialization in the ancient Hellenic pantheon. I summoned the Theoi into circles, bastardized Their festivals to suite the Pagan way of practice and circle of the year, and did a lot of research. I have always liked research. The last year or so of my practice, I begun to feel uneasy as I summoned the Theoi. I had begun to understand the ways of the ancient Hellenes and realized that I was not worshipping the Theoi, I was abusing them. This became my personal truth. I felt it down to my bones.

Religion is the process of finding personal truth. For me, it’s also a way to reconcile my many thoughts about Divinity with the experiences I have had with it. Which practices I use gives me a framework to do what I feel that needs to be done. What I felt that was needed to be done was to start worshipping the Theoi through the ways of the ancient Hellenes. That is why it was natural for me to progress into it.

My personal truth is exactly that: personal. Others will not feel that way. Others will feel drawn to casting circles and spells and summoning the Theoi for them. Honestly, it's not up to me to have an opinion on it. If the Theoi have an issue with it, They will make it known to that person like They did with me--or They will just ignore them. Who knows, maybe they like it--prefer it even! I will never presume to know what the Theoi like and do not like. All I (can) do is focus on my practice and leave everyone else to theirs.